After 30 years of ministry, I still get it wrong. I work too hard without recovering and ignore Sabbath rest. This strange phenomena in life called ‘balance’ eludes me. It seems to dance before me... just beyond reach, as if taunting and mocking me.
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it.” Matthew 11:28 (The Message)
I am currently in hiding - trying to recover from a season of intense battle. As a younger man, I did not understand the critical function of rest. I ran without pausing, worked without taking time to reflect. Back then, I could get away with it - or so I thought. But not anymore.
Life is increasingly stressful. As the world spins out of control and tries to command more of our attention, it becomes paramount that we set aside time for rest and reflection.
I now do it more often. But I confess that my times of rest are actually still times of physical and emotional collapse. Jesus seems to offer something more. He describes a lifestyle of living from a place of rest. He offers a life of rest every hour and minute of the day. His offer dances gracefully before me, shimmering with beauty. I want it. I have reached out for it many times. But as I grasp and pull my hands back, they remain empty.
My entire culture is at war with the words of Jesus. We live in a world that celebrates busyness and activity. We honor self-effort and encourage people to live chaotic, fragmented lives. We teach our children to run from one activity to another. Always busy. Never stopping. We lose ourselves while chasing empty promises of gain. We only know two extremes - laziness and exhaustion.
Sure, there are seasons of stress in our lives that are more intense than others. Times of battle with the evil forces in this world are inevitable. Our world is cursed. We are called to push back darkness. The more we live with a purpose, the more stress it invites. But we cannot sustain the battle without learning to fight from a place of rest.
“Let is therefore strive to enter that rest...” Hebrews 4:11
All is not lost. I have made progress. I have taken up new disciplines that help me to slow down. I have become more intentional about my emotional and physical well-being. The signs and symptoms of stress are easier for me to identify. I set aside more time for prayer and solitude than before. I pursue rest. I strive more and more to live in His peace.
But for now, I am withdrawing to recover. Once more I have failed. I am facing my sinful addiction to self-effort. I am confronting my giants of pride and insecurity that continually push me over the edge. I am committing, once again, to learn this rhythm of grace and rest.
Perhaps, this time, I will succeed...